Certainly the Tambora Revolution is not a well-known or commonly referenced revolution. Regardless, as Gillen D’Arcy Wood addressed in his lecture, the parallels to today’s refugee crisis, the socio-cultural implications of climate change, and the consistent influence of atmosphere on literature are not as easily shoved aside or put back in a drawer. Ultimately, I find it important to dig into those teleconnections Wood so ardently champions, as well as briefly interrogate the history of humanitarian aid in the context of Tambora.

The class stratifications that Wood emphasized articulate the fluctuating answer to the question, “What does it mean to be a victim of environmental disaster?” Clearly the effects of the Tambora eruption were heard ’round the world, but I want to briefly note that the effects we heard about during this particular lecture were decentralized from the physical eruption site. Wood postulates in his book that we do not know much about Tambora precisely because of its Eastern location and physical removal from the Western, Eurocentric conscious. This, then, highlights yet another “cognitive dissonance,” in addition to the way we have historically understood the Year Without a Summer. Moreover, as Wood spoke on, the third part of his “Stages of Climate Shock Response” –“Flight into Hell”–is an incredibly classist one. The famished, the hungry, the devastated bore witness to this stage, and I am curious as to the manifestations of departure from the traditional laissez-faire nation-state towards a more humanitarian focus.

The “seismic soul searching” that Wood recommended to all of us is one of great importance, and a recommendation I typically would gladly take the torch on; however, in the historic analysis of the Baroness de Krüdener and also of Sir Thomas Raffles, the founder of “British Singapore,” I implore that we think critically about our modern engagements with humanitarian aid. Indeed, I know little more than what Wood spoke to us about last week surrounding the specific aid and refugee crisis during 1816. I do know a tad more, though, about the types of humanitarian aid the United States and other “world leaders” have indoctrinated today. To be frank, modern humanitarian aid often plays the tired hat of neocolonialism and dehumanization. It does not acknowledge the global systems (typically a domino effect started by those foreign countries providing aid & relief) that lead to the civil strife or economic/environmental hardships wreaking havoc on Syria, Somali, the list goes on and on. Humanitarian aid, in effect, most typically reifies the confines of the nation-state and does little on the side of “revolutions.” It maintains the status quo–that being the deep (economic and socio-political) power imbalances of the foreign aid provider and recipient. The purpose of my analysis of modern humanitarian aid is to raise questions about how we present historic “saviors” (i.e. the Baroness & Raffles), the class and racial inequities that led to the necessity for creative sympathy, as well as the historic dismissal of the Tambora eruption.

Wood rests his case on teleconnections. I urge us to do the same. I urge us to think more critically about what we view as “good work,” as humanitarian relief, and ultimately use this concept of “creative sympathy” to engage in the tough conversations about the way our own situation in a global context impacts the world.